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The Guillotine Outside of France

Just as there were guillotine-like devices in countries other than France before 1792, likewise some countries, especially in Europe, have continued to use this method of execution into modern times.

A notable example is Germany, where the guillotine is known in German as Fallbeil ("falling axe"). It has been used in various German states since the 17th century, becoming the usual method of execution in Napoleonic times in many parts of Germany. Guillotine and firing squad were the legal methods of execution in German Empire (1871-1918) and Weimar Republic (1919-1933).

The original German guillotines resembled the French Berger 1872 model but eventually evolved into more specialised machines largely built of metal with a much heavier blade enabling shorter uprights to be utilized. Accompanied by a more efficient blade recovery system and the eventual removal of the tilting board (or bascule) this allowed a quicker turn-around time between executions, the victim being decapitated either face up or down depending on how the executioner predicted they would react to the sight of the machine. Those deemed likely to struggle were backed up from behind a curtain to shield their view of the device.

The Nazis employed it extensively: twenty guillotines were in use in Germany which, from 1938, included Austria. In Nazi Germany beheading by guillotine was the usual method of executing convicted criminals as opposed to political enemies, who were usually either hanged or shot. An exception would be the six members of the White Rose anti-Nazi resistance organization, who were beheaded on February 22, 1943. The Nazis have been estimated to have guillotined some 40,000 people in Germany and Austria; possibly more than were beheaded during the French Revolution.[citation needed] The last execution in German Federal Republic occurred on 11 May 1949, when 24 year old Berthold Wehmeyer was beheaded for murder and robbery in Moabit prison in West Berlin. West Germany abolished the death penalty in 1949, East Germany in 1987 and Austria in 1968. In Sweden, where beheading was the mandatory method of execution, the guillotine was used for its last execution in 1910 in LĂ„ngholmen prison, Stockholm.

Although the guillotine has never been used in the United States as a legal method of execution (it had been considered in the 19th century before the electric chair), in 1996 Georgia state legislator Doug Teper proposed the guillotine as a replacement for the electric chair as the state's method of execution to enable the convicts to act as organ donors. The proposal was never adopted.

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